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Max Verstappen takes pole ahead of Charles Leclerc due to rain and five red flags as heavily disrupted Imola Grand Prix qualifying sees Lewis Hamilton down 13th

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Max Verstappen will start on pole for Saturday’s sprint race at the Imola Grand Prix as a heavily disrupted qualifying session condemned Lewis Hamilton to another early exit.

Verstappen eventually topped reigning rival Charles Leclerc’s timesheets, as rain in northern Italy deprived the fast Ferrari of a free-kick in first place.

Verstappen just set the fastest time before two more red flags guaranteed his place
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Hamilton was dropped again in the second quarter
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The championship rivals were followed by British McLaren star Lando Norris and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in fourth.

Reigning constructors’ champions Mercedes were once again miles off the pace, with Hamilton barely closing in on the second qualifying round, where he was then eliminated.

“How far are we from the man, it’s crazy! declared the seven-time champion, before a fall by Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) delayed the second session.

By the time the cars were cleared to return to the track, the rain had already started again, leaving Hamilton in 13th, behind team-mate George Russell in 11th.

The pattern repeated itself in the third and final session, with reigning drivers’ champion Verstappen clocking a time of 1:27.999, seven tenths ahead of Leclerc.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas then caused another stoppage as he pulled over to the side of the track, with the grid unable to improve their times as the rainfall increased again.

More soon…

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